The Witcher

Written by Joe Martin

October 31, 2007 | 10:46

Tags: #baldurs #crpg #fantasy #geralt #magic #role #rpg #sandbox #witch #witcher

Companies: #atari #bioware #epic

Under your spell

So, let’s recap. So far I’ve told you The Witcher is a graphically inconsistent game with a few annoying bugs, but an interesting combat model and the possibility of nipples. Is there anything more to be told?

Actually, yes.

One of the most important things about the game is the pacing, which is both slow and fast in just the right areas. Combat? Fast pacing, with plenty to do and lots to keep you occupied as you hack and slash. Story? Slow pacing, especially in terms of quest resolution.

What I mean by that is that you’ll rarely find out the consequences of your action straight away and it can be hours later before the results become apparent. For example, you may be in one quest (and this is hypothetical so that we can remain spoiler free) where you are given a choice. A murderer is on trial, but you know his ‘murder’ was a sympathetic one.

The choice is simple, come forward and help him or let him die and leave his family without a head. There’s no obvious right or wrong, no matter what Hollywood would have us believe and, just like in real life you may never fully see the consequences.

The Witcher Conclusions The Witcher Conclusions
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For example, if you let the man die then his family would be left destitute and his son, bitter with rage, may track you down much later in the game and attack you. This is exactly the type of timing you can expect to see in the game and the type of reaction too. With no clear right or wrong, you may do the thing you think is best only to have it bite you in the bum about four hours later. You may try to be evil, only to be seen as a hero by the time the game is over for you.

Obviously this gives the game a massive amount of re-playability, with players having to fully explore their motives as they make these choices. It’s a difficult thing to fully convey in a review as the consequences necessarily feel immediately connected to the described actions, but in-game events unfold both beautifully and slowly. The delay really is an elegant and important piece of the game design in The Witcher.

Conclusions

Has The Witcher successfully cast a charm spell on our hearts then or did it mess up with one of the ingredients and accidentally turn our souls to stone? It’s time to decide.

Drawing my conclusion on The Witcher has been difficult and was actually rather painful for me to come to and not because of my ongoing problem with RSI either. You see, I want to give The Witcher a high score so very badly and I’d love any excuse to tell you all to go out and buy it, but there are just too many problems in the way.

The Witcher Conclusions
Click to enlarge

This is a bit of a personal conflict, because I’m a massive RPG fan and The Witcher is exactly the type of game I love. There’s an adult theme, a complicated but scalable set of mechanics to master and an epic and inventively delivered narrative – just what gamers like I lust for. There are problems too though. Poor lip syncing, graphics which border on schizophrenic and frequent crashes and viewpoint problems – these are noticeable enough to dissuade the majority from playing the game.

The Witcher isn’t a bad game though, just an unpolished one which could have done with a little bit more thought and design work. The bugs and crashes will hopefully be eliminated in the future, but for the moment they are a semi-serious problem for the game.

Basically it all comes down to the gamer. If you’re a hardcore RPG gamer like myself then you’ll be able to tolerate or cope with the problems and have yourself a merry old time. If you’re just a RPG fledgling though or aren’t sure the basic delayed-consequence system interests you though then you may do better to avoid The Witcher for a bit. It all depends on whether or not you’re really willing to sit down for a 40-hour game only to play it all over again to get different consequences – discuss the matter in the forums.

The Witcher Conclusions

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